Since working with the NAPAC Museum I get constant inquiries about the history of the devils punch bowl. Here is a little insight to help you judge if occupying Union troops
carried out the deeds being attributed to them .
In an investigative story reported by WJTV News Channel 12 out of Jackson, Mississippi, “Mass Graves Remain in The Devil’s Punchbowl of Natchez.”
The Devil’s Punchbowl is a place located in Natchez, Mississippi where during the Civil War; authorities forced tens of thousands of freed slaves to live into concentration camps. Westbrook adds that, “The union army did not allow them to remove the bodies from the camp. They just gave ’em shovels and said bury ’em where they drop.”
According to researcher Paula Westbrook, she researched through Adams County Sheriff’s reports from the time.
“When the slaves were released from the plantations during the occupation they overran Natchez. And the population went from about 10,000 to 120,000 overnight,” Westbrook said.
“So they decided to build an encampment for ’em at Devil’s Punchbowl which they walled off and wouldn’t let ’em out,” Don Estes, former director of the Natchez City Cemetery, said.
Estes said that history research is his life. During his studies he said he learned that Union troops ordered re-captured black men to perform hard labor. Women and children were all but left to die in the three “punchbowls”.
“Disease broke out among ’em, smallpox being the main one. And thousands and thousands died. They were begging to get out. ‘Turn me loose and I’ll go home back to the plantation! Anywhere but there’,” Estes said.
Wow an horrifying account and truly something to investigate so lets get started the simple way. The occupying Union troops were those stationed at Fort McPherson. These troops occupied Natchez before the end of slavery and was home to the following .
The United States Colored Troops (USCT) were regiments of the Union Army during the Civil WAr composed of African American soldiers, many of whom had been enslaved. The 175 regiments of the USCT comprised one-tenth of the Union Army. The 58th, 70th, and 71st Colored Infantry and 6th Colored Heavy Artillery were stationed in Natchez.
Next statement is exerpts taken from an article written by Jim Barnett and H. Clark Burkett and published in Mississippi History Now.
Local fears of incoming slaves bringing cholera to Natchez prompted passage of an 1833 city ordinance prohibiting interstate slave traders from housing their slaves within the city limits. Situated on the city’s eastern boundary line, the Forks of the Road market proved to be an ideal location for interstate slave sales without violating the 1833 ordinance. Slave traders operating at the Forks of the Road situated their holding pens just outside of the city limits. At peak business times, with as many as 500 slaves at the market, the intersection probably resembled a sprawling prison camp. Three prominent townhouse mansions, known today as “D'Evereux,” “Linden,” and “Monmouth,” were all within sight of the slave market.
These are some of the same conditions mentioned in the opening article. The only difference is that it is being done by slave traders and before the Union occupation began.But this tells the reason from the same article.
The last newspaper advertisements for slave sales at the Forks of the Road appeared in the Natchez Daily Courier during the early months of 1863. All slave trading had ceased in Natchez by the summer of 1863 when Union troops occupied the town. Today, the historic intersection, with its familiar “Y” configuration, remains to mark the location of the once-flourishing slave markets at the Forks of the Road.
Jim Barnett is director of the Historic Properties Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Clark Burkett is historian II at Historic Jefferson College, Mississippi Department of Archives and History. This article is condensed from an article originally published in The Journal of Mississippi History, Volume LXIII, Fall 2001, No. 3
This simple research lays the groundwork for debunking the opening article and the final nail can be found in state medical archives that document the number of small pox deaths in adams county for the time period.
to summarize I would like to tell all searchers of the true Devils Punch Bowl location is to visit the Forks of The Roads site and picture the atrocities of slave traders and the inhumane treatment they have never owned up to.
@Bobby L Dennis